U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Côte d'Ivoire
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Publication Date||30 January 1998|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Côte d'Ivoire, 30 January 1998, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa3544.html [accessed 26 November 2015]|
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, January 30, 1998.
COTE D'IVOIREFrom independence in 1960 until 1990, President Felix Houphouet-Boigny and his Democratic Party of Cote D'Ivoire (PDCI), then the only legal political party, governed the Republic of Cote D'Ivoire. The PDCI maintained this political dominance following multiparty presidential and legislative elections in 1990. Following Houphouet's death in 1993, National Assembly President Henri Konan Bedie became President by constitutional succession, and served out the remainder of Houphouet's term. Due to concerns about irregularities in the electoral code and voter registration, the major opposition parties boycotted the 1995 presidential election and tried to interfere with the voting process; however, President Bedie won 96 percent of the vote. The major political parties then reached an accord with Bedie, which allowed for full party participation in the 1995 legislative elections. The judiciary, although nominally independent, is subject to executive branch influence. Security forces include the national police (Surete) and the Gendarmerie, a branch of the armed forces with responsibility for general law enforcement. The Gendarmerie is a national police force charged with maintenance of public order and territorial security. Formed in August 1996, L'Etat Major de la Securite focuses on internal security, specifically violent crime. A National Security Council, formed in July 1996, coordinates security policy, both internal and external. The Special Anticrime Police Brigade (SAVAC) continued its operations. The armed forces traditionally have accepted the primacy of civilian authority. Seven members of the military accused of plotting a coup in 1995 were dismissed from the military and released in December 1996. Security forces including the SAVAC committed numerous human rights abuses. The economy, largely market based but heavily dependent on the agricultural sector, performed poorly in the 1980's and early 1990's when high population growth combined with weak commodity prices and an overvalued currency led to economic stagnation. Since the 1994 devaluation and the accompanying reforms, the economy has boomed, returning to real gross domestic product growth rates of 6 to 7 percent in 1995, 1996, and 1997. The Government devoted an increasing share of its budget to basic health services and education. It is unclear whether resumed growth and increased spending have created significant reductions in poverty or improvement in social indicators such as mortality or literacy rates. Gross national product per capita in 1996 was about $730. Principal exports are cocoa, coffee, wood, and, to an increasing extent, petroleum. Most of the rural population remains dependent on smallholder cash crop production. The Government's human rights record improved although serious human rights abuses remain in some areas. Members of the security forces committed extrajudicial killings, and the security forces beat and abused detainees and used force to disperse protesters. The Government also used arbitrary arrest and detention and failed to bring perpetrators of these abuses to justice. Prison conditions are harsh and life threatening, and prolonged detention is a problem. Leaders of the principal student organization were detained for various periods from December 1996 to February 1997. The judiciary does not ensure due process and is subject to executive branch influence, particularly in political cases. The Government limits citizens' rights to change their government and restricts freedom of speech, the press, assembly, and association. Discrimination and violence against women and female genital mutilation (FGM) remain problems. The Government announced a campaign to eliminate FGM in September 1996, but to date it has not taken any action.